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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

John Austin Cheley Foundation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Camps, Children & Youth, Education, Sports, Student Services, Youth Development

Mission: Changing kids' lives through transformative summer camp experiences

Results: Over 1000 children served representing over $7million in camperships (camp scholarships) calculated in today's dollars. Summer 2019: - 105 full camperships awarded at a value of over $585,000.

Target demographics: under-served children overcome the obstacles to a high-impact residential summer camp experience

Direct beneficiaries per year: 100 children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 16

Geographic areas served: multiple states across the country

Programs: The John Austin Cheley Foundation funds need-based camperships for high potential youth to attend extended-stay wilderness summer camps that have a proven track record of positively impacting youth development.

Community Stories

64 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

While spending a summer working at a JACF camp, I became aware of the tremendous work that JACF was doing for youth at camps across the US. They were funding scholarships and allowing kids the ability to go to camp-I was amazed! That summer, I watched campers transform in a few short weeks, and I wanted to extend that opportunity to youth whose financial situation excluded them from a camp experience. At the end of that summer, I made a paycheck contribution to JACF without hesitation. Since then, I have continued to contribute financially as well as volunteer my time reading applications. When I was unable to go back to camp to work, I was still able to impact youth through my volunteer work. JACF campers are more than one time campers. This organization works with them throughout the year(s) to make further changes to help them into adulthood. I am proud to be a part of JACF, even in the smallest way. Camp is a special place, and JACF is making camp a reality for so many more youth around the nation.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Cheley Foundation positively impacts children’s lives by introducing them to and supporting them in the experiences of high quality summer camps.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter received a Cheley Foundation scholarship to go to Camp Thunderbird for Girls in 2016. She was 13 years old and shy, she told me she wanted to go away to camp to make friends and try to get to be less shy. I was terrified shed never even been to a sleep over. My daughter returned with such excitement. Telling me of the beautiful sky with millions of stars not the same we have here in the city and of her new friends shed met and how much fun shed had. I seen a change in her she had more confidence. The following summer she went away to camp again, with the same group of friends this time I was not terrified just so grateful. If it wasn't for the Cheley Foundation I would never be able to offer my child this wonderful experience. My daughter is now 16 years old she is no longer shy and she tells me all the time how much she loved camp and hopes to return to work there one day. I am so grateful to the Cheley foundation for giving my family this opportunity.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had imagined sending my kids to camp Cheley since before they were born. Life circumstances put me in a position where that was financially out of reach. I was heart broken. When I found out about JACF, I had hope again. He was able to make it though the wait list and get a campership. The staff was patient and encouraging with us throughout the process and when the good news came, I think they were as excited as we were. His experience at camp was life changing and he is excited to to now pass along this good will to his community though a capstone project this year. He now desires to keep going back and becoming a counselor himself one day. I can not express enough joy at what JACF has done for our family.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This organization is a wonderful organization it has given my son zahir a life time opportunity to experience natural inhabitants and also make him a better person I’m sure it’s an experience he will cherish so i say go John Cheley foundation you’re the best on behalf of my family we say big thank you

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

JACF provided an amazing experience for our daughter Sophia, giving her the opportunity to go to sleep way camp. She always asked, but we didn’t have financial conditions for it. It was the first time this year that she has ever done it. Sophia is 12 years old, and came back much more independent, listening, and giving much more value to her family and friends she made at camp and outside of camp.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Our family has a long history with the JACF and we are thankful that it will continue for another generation. The last couple years have been tough financially for our family and this last summer our daughter was old enough to attend Cheley Colorado camps. We had a rough time getting the funds together and without the help of the JACF my daughter would not have been able to attend. Summer camps are a luxury, but at the same time they can be life changing. My wife was changed at an early age when she attended Cheley and I can honestly say my daughter was a better person after coming home from camp. We have the JACF to thank specifically for these transformations. My son will likely attend this next summer and we cant wait to see him mature with the help of Cheley camps and the JACF. What an amazing group of people and a positive influence for our family. Thank you guys so much from the bottom of our hearts.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

The camp experience is vital to the development of our youth. Children have the opportunity to disconnect from social media and devices, they learn how to connect with others, live without their parents, and become their "best selves". JACF is giving over 100 children an opportunity they wouldn't otherwise experience. And by doing this, changing the trajectory of their lives. As one of the camps where children attend, we trust that JACF is vetting quality children that value the experience and contribute to the camp community. After 30 years, they are quietly changing the world.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a former teacher and camp director, the Cheley Foundation taught me to mentor young people who could not afford, but would benefit from, attending a summer camp. I witnessed the growth and self reliance these young people acquired from returning summer after summer to camp. Not a one time thing, a camper may return every summer until they age out.

Then I volunteered as a board member and watched the organization blossom into sending over 100 campers to 9 established and vetted summer camps around the country. No longer a board member, I continue to volunteer to evaluate new camper's applications, and coach mentors on their camper's Capstone Service Project. Once a camper reaches high school, they are encouraged to 'give back' to their communities with a service project. Each camper must document the initiation, progress, and results of their project through a web presentation. These are available for you to view online at the Cheley Foundation website.

In the past 20 years, I have seen my donations of time and money produce phenomenal young people whom I hope will one day run our world.

Previous Stories
2

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am a former teacher and have worked in summer camps for over half of my life. When I joined the John Austin Cheley Foundation, I found that I could provide the volunteer skills needed to help recruit qualified young people to attend summer camp for free. We managed to increase the number of young people the Cheley Foundation sent to camp from 25 to 100 while I was on the Board. And the growth and personal development I witnessed from these young adults was simply astounding. Not even one of my classroom students showed as much growth and personal development as those young people who attended the summer programs which the Cheley Foundation endorses. I truly believe every child should attend a three to four week overnight camp. And the Cheley Foundation provides the safest, most secure, summer enrichment programs that you can find almost anywhere in the United States.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My has ADHD & mild Autism diagnosis. He is an awesome kid, and uniquely him. I saw him lose his spark when he kept getting bullied at school and didn't have friends.  He only played video games, spent many hours and weekends watching inappropriate youtube videos (without my permission) and was getting depressed. As a parent I had to do something about this.  

This is how we discovered JACF, we applied for the scholarship and couldn't believe we got it. He was really scared to go and I wasn't sure this was right for him.  I am an anxious parent and I was amazed at the support Karen (JACF program director)  has given me as well. She listened to me and calmed my nerves regarding the thought of letting my son go away for such a long time.  When he returned from camp that summer I saw an amazing transformation in him. He was calmer and didn't rush to his X-box or Youtube right away, which were his go to activities. That year was his first year in middle school and as expected he still had a hard time with his peers but he handled bullies differently, advocating for himself and started to make friends and keeping them.  He wasn't sure he wanted to go back to summer camp because he missed being away from home and I missed him too until Karen and Tim invited us to a JACF gathering. When we got there he was so, so happy to see his buddies from camp that he changed his mind. We re applied and were lucky enough to go another year.  He has since then made friends from other states and texts/ calls them often. His father and I are separated and it's also been very hard for him to deal with too. The only place in the world where he feels like a kid, safe & emotionally stable is in the mountains at summer camp. He can forget the struggles of school and his issues of home life. He really holds Cheley Camp as a special place in his heart. He is so blessed and lucky to have had these opportunities, thank you for your support!

P. S. His new favorite activities are no longer online gaming or youtube, he'd rather play outside and go hiking!:-)

Client Served

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation is GREAT!!!! My son has been going to overnight camp (Camp Kawanhee for Boys) for the past 3 years thanks to this foundation and their donors. He has made friends from all over the world and had experiences and memories that will last a lifetime I am forever grateful.

Advisor

Rating: 5

As the Development Director of Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis-a residential program for scholars with high academic potential, who come from adverse settings that might not allow them to reach their full potential--our scholars have experienced the ultimate camping experience at Camp Thunderbird. Because of the generous scholarships, Javon, Karl and most recently Aniya have returned from camp with new leaderships skills, stories to share and the biggest smiles ever! Their first time experiences of swimming in a lake, rock climbing, sailing and more allows our scholars opportunities placing them on a more level playing field in life. Thank you John Austin Cheley Foundation for all you do to support so many!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have worked with the John Austin Cheley Foundation for 10 years and currently serve as Board Chair. JACF provides transformative experiences at residential summer camps for kids who could not otherwise afford to go. Camp is not a luxury. It’s essential. Camp gives kids a chance to be unplugged, in the outdoors, creating meaningful relationships and developing the confidence and perseverance they’ll need to be productive and happy adults. In this digital world of screen communication and isolation, camp is a must.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is by far one of the best nonprofits I have ever felt with. For 3 years my daughter has been able to experience a once in a life time chance at a summer camp. Being a mother of 5 is hard to send even one child to a month long camp. I HIGHLY recommend John Austin Cheley Foundation for helping those in need and giving a child a lifetime experience. I would also like to add how smooth the process is and how understand they are for those that may not understand or unable to work technology.

Matthew David S.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is a great opportunity for any and all children. It has opened my daughters eyes to see what life is all about. She has learned new skills, she has made new friends from across the states. Our daughter has learned to explore new adventures. She did things that she would have never got the chance to do in a lifetime for some kids. She learned how to ride horses. And to hike and mountain climbing. That’s just to name a few things. I would recommend this foundation to anyone who would love to see there son or daughter have and adventure they’ll never forget for the rest of there lives. Thank you all from the John Austin Cheney Foundation for all you have done for my daughter.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a teenager from a troubled home. Fortunately, with help from extended family, I was able to attend Cheley Camp. Over four summers at camp I was guided and mentored. I learned leadership skills and responsibility, I became tougher mentally and physically and I made friendships that have been life-long. I believe if you ask anyone who has had the opportunity to attend a good organized camp, their story will be similar to mine, no matter their circumstances or background.

I have followed the Cheley Foundation from its beginning. Their impressive goal of providing a camp experience to as many underprivileged children as possible is one that is most worthy. I am also highly impressed with the Foundation's small but very dedicated staff, with the outside directors and with its tight fiscal management. Seldom can one talk in glowing terms about all aspects of a charitable foundation, but such is the case with the John Austin Cheley Foundation.

Now retired, it's my privilege to be a volunteer and offer what assistance I can in evaluating prospective campers. Those selected I know will benefit beyond words with their camp experience, an experience that would not be possible without this foundation.

1 Jessica R.7

Client Served

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation helped my kids in every way imaginable. They provided scholarship money so that my children could attend camp and grow as individuals. I believe that the experiences that my own children had at Colvig Silver Camps helped them to have the confidence and leadership skills that they display now at their schools. I could not have done it on my teacher's salary. I love Cheley and what they did for my family!

1 Elizabeth Harrison L.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My husband and I have four children, all boys, and there is six years between the first and the last. Our household is busy and can be overwhelming with all of the energy that flows through it. We are caring and thoughtful parents, but our family has a lot of struggles. If you have ever read Ross Green's "Explosive Child," then you would understand our second born. He is easily frustrated, a black and white thinker, has low frustration tolerance, can swear like a trucker when angry, and can be physically aggressive. He is also the funniest member of our family, highly intelligent, witty, generous, and very physically capable. I have always been especially worried about him. I have read every book, tried every type of therapy, briefly tried medication, and done everything under the sun that I could think to do to help him in the places that he is challenged. And then I found JACF. Our son has attended Camp Kanwanhee for two Summers. The first year for two weeks and the second year for three weeks. After his first time we got his counselor report and, as I suspected, there were a few things that had come up during camp that they were concerned about. The second Summer you could tell that they were having a hard time finding anything negative to say. He has blossomed under the leadership at that camp in a way that I couldn't have dreamed of. It is an all boys camp which is the perfect fit for him. He is able to be challenged physically with all of the wonderful activities that they offer: soccer, basketball, baseball, climbing, swimming, kayaking, sailing, and so much more. This camp is saving his life. And I mean that. He is a child with enormous potential but so many hurdles in his way because of his wiring. This camp experience gives him the best springboard for change. It shows him that he is capable of doing hard things like when he learned a barrel roll in his kayak for the first time. It shows him he can follow through like the "Ten Mile Swim" club he earned a spot in.
This camp has made and will continue to make a difference for our son and it would never have been in reach were it not for the JACF Foundation. Never in a million years would we be able to send him to a camp of that caliber. Because of JACF, we have more hope for our son's future. We are forever grateful.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a mentor for a camper who benefited from the John Austin Cheley Foundation, I want to share a brief moment about the connections made this camper through the camp experience. I just heard from the young man recently and he was telling me about his high school graduation (he lives in Florida) and that he was so excited to be able to visit a college in California ( I knew that this kind of travel would be a financial stretch for this family), I asked him where he was staying and he said with his friend T. from camp. He was so happy to be able to spend time with him and visit a school he was interested in attending. I asked him if he was still in touch with his other friends from camp and he said yes, many of them. I believe he will have lifelong connections that will enrich the lives of him and his friends from the experience provided to him by the John Austin Cheley Foundation and Camp Thunderbird.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have a son who struggles with depression and anxiety. He is also a verified SPED student with mild autism. The John Austin Cheley Foundation provides him with a scholarship to Camp Koochiching and also provides him with transportation there and back. They provide you with service and support year round as well answering any questions or concerns and helping you problem solve. We are so grateful! Camp does something for him that I cannot do! He comes home more confident, independent, and responsible. He tells me every year how Kooch is his favorite place on earth and the one place he always fits in. The John Austin Cheley Foundation is helping mold today's youth into tomorrow's leaders!